Tag Archives: prose

Helen’s Scene

Helen came bouncing through the glass doors, overcoated by brilliant frosty air. She was big, gray and nested comfortably in life like an old cat on an overstuffed chair.

In a second of bad news, Helen’s buoyant face with all its oak-bark creases could drop to a taut mask of fear and vulnerability that made her look young and heartbroken.  Most of the time, though, her cheeks and wide mouth and bubble chin lifted high and hugged together in a great warm smile.  Standing before that smile was like standing before a great oven moments before fresh bread came out to cool.

Flighty and breathless, Helen never settled on a table or chair.  In her daily hours spent at the shop she would rise half a dozen times from one perch to flap quickly to a new decided-on roost.  An hour might be spent humming long, tuneless notes watching carefully out of a picture window onto the empty street.  Sudden as the wind, she would change to a conspicuous seat at the large central table, bowed in fierce concentration over old puzzles in old newspapers.  When a friend pushed quietly into the shop, Helen would bowl aside young laptoppers in their private worlds to make room.

As the sun descended over the town on its way to new westward purchases, Helen left as quickly and decisively as she did anything.  In the middle of a puzzle, conversation or observation, she glanced up as if called, excused herself with a hearty throat-clearing, and floated out the door to drift like a dandelion down the windy street.

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there, here

Now, we are grown older.
A discarded pair of glasses, eye, shade or costume, is not ours for the trying-on.
We have come to the park not to chase across the grass, nor to examine worlds and kingdoms at trees’ feet, but for still and silent council with colder, quieter elements: rock, restless water, the sun in its jewels and brocade taking survey of its limitless empire.
Here the seconds widen.
A minute is gulf enough to inhabit oneself, small, complete and simple; to locate this unusual, unremarkable corner of space and enjoy, for sixty seconds, the terrifying brook of murmuring time.
In the random span of our living rope, here we might choose to exist, reserved and serene on a gray and stony shore.
In our age there is no madness, neither pain, but only shores of faces, hands and hair and fingers, whose high watermarks make up our passing time.

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From the Rock in my Back

Between the close end of the pack and its unmarked center I have set foothold in the broken rocks and step press side stepped myself onto a hard perch here where the lake is not so removed and I am not too far gone to alarm the law

The near water is edges of glass over dusty mitey motey clouds licking at cool stone candy tumbling jawbreakers through silty spit and spray looking out out it is an undulation of sunlight blue and shadow green pulsed out from a hidden heart of Michigan

Exposed bones of old docks like spears stuck in the gullet of a wave out out to a horizon broken only by scattered sails of defiant insignificant boats on their way to nowhere

I am here in this nowhere as I have been on muddy tracks and hidden up in a bunk listening for thick blood rain on the cobblestones and shouts and laughter and staggered heels and silent for the threat of a knocking door or  kick-propped against green walls

Small in the company of paintings and pianos heaving breath for another long draw from a foamy cup or back to the boards and velvet all around me buried in the deep secret concert hall casket

I am here
the rock is cold
the lake is alive
I must go

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“No,” he thinks.

“Yes,” he says.

He keeps a nervous eye toward the paneled glass door.  An unkind face could lock eyes with him through the vestibule at any second.  A sense of shame sticks somewhere between his Adam’s apple and his sternum.  It hovers in the hollow of his chest like a cold sludge.  But the man behind the bar has been moving all this time, and he slides a cardboard circle over like a paycheck, and he crowns it with a glass of something cool and dark.

Our man pulls the glass to his lips.  He takes the liquid just like a shot in the vein, mainlining the comfort of ale to the heart of his shame.  The sludge softens, and the shy coat of his guts takes it on for armor.  It won’t dissolve him from the oppressive crowd, but it might submerge him to a matchable depth.

A dead-eyed man rolls unhurried through the vestibule’s airlock, back from a mid-lager smoke.  His aura is ash and hollow plastic lighters.  His heavy eyelids will only fall with age.  His shirt is clean.

The man’s cough is deposits of brown stained phlegm.   They stick and quiver against choking lung sacs, reverberating and rattling up through a tortured esophagus and into the cracked desert of his closed fist.  He is not asking any questions or making friendly sallies.  Inside, he is a tin-metal wind-up toy, jerking and starting in a locked pattern of gears, a simple and useless machine with a painted metal smell. The smoke and eyes and slime and metal and well-bottom isolation of a man in his self-imposed and inescapable hell.

The smoke works its way through his pipes and valves.  He  takes a moment to close his eyes.  In the glow of alcohol, light like the fire of smokestacks rolls from his arms and shoulders.

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Jerry’s story

Jerry moves like a boulder in the wind.

Humped over in a brown leather shell like a bomber,
he takes the gusts to his left cheek.

His whole
bowls around something protected
(in the shelter of his lap)
while his eyes fire at squirrely random for thieves and p r e d a t o r s!

Jerry’s jaw is a shelf of consternation JUTTING from a punched flour face.

His eyes fix on a limping man he knows.
They share a wave. Stiff and incomplete. Starting halfway. Cut off at the high note. Truncated gesture of shy, ungestated acquaintance.

Jerry is: rounded back of the great ape. Shoulders, pinched in by weary chub, sloping not ungracefully up a tire tread neck to downy pocket-lint cue ball head.

He has the sculpted-bust profile of a rubber nipple.

All around Jerry, empty cafe chairs face together toward a lonely direction. Sideways, they take the gusts to their left cheek. It is an empty audience where only Jerry sits, uninterested watcher of a wintering tree.

The tree has selected an elegant sylvan gold. Gold Leaf!
None of the harsh but brilliant flames of the furious oaks by the lake.
It will drop its clothing
willingly, repeatedly, deliberately, with the timing of a striptease, letting
a chorus becoming a troupe becoming isolated pairs and clusters of clinging lovers in the final gentle orgy of a life-year, until slip-slip
and the bold tree, demure and humbled tree, waits in a bright spot for Jerry to dumbly take it in

Jerry palms his thighs, hefts the entire human machine of himself to a working compromise of height.

Rolling step-by-step away from his front row seat, he takes to the corner of eroded sidewalk. A lurch propels him ponderously across the earth-curve of the street.

There on a distant shore Jerry stands swaying through currents of people coming
standing in the middle of the crowds and to the side of parents with small hands folded into theirs,
hurried brown coats with important papers tucked underneath arms and into leather cases,
scarves and hats and sweaters of knitted sheep hair,
choruses and troupes and tiny orgies of a life-year burning their way to other corners.

Jerry stands like a boulder in the wind.

He turns: takes the gusts to his right cheek.

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low thoughts

A staggering wind like drunkard heaving presses unwelcome against my mass.

What red infant’s fist unfurls the buds of leaves in the spring, and what bony talon rakes them into a rattling, dry death when the warm breath of fall whistles away into steel winter?

I remember pushing through walls of bodies in crowded streets and at events and during instances of urgent passing.

I am not entirely aware of myself. There are things I know: dimensions and lengths in units that make some rough sense of how I stick out into space. I have an idea of my appearance, and have studied my reflection vainly or with dissatisfaction from day to day.

All of this fails to come entirely to use when I attempt to steer myself sideways and slide, coated and careful and catlike, past an oncomer rushing opposite my direction. I mean no molestation, but there is an error in my awareness and the bulk of my great ship careens, victim to some careless undercurrent. Some belly, limb or ass failed to report its sum to the navigator and now we smush, crash, or sliiiide across the hull of our adversary.

“M’sorry” as I pick up speed, beating a hasty retreat, a practiced and well-worn tactic in escaping a distressing encounter.

I am in years just beyond the blind corner of thirty.

While I do not expect that I will ever die, I admit that an eventual end hangs around the front of my brain more often these days that when I was stumbling break-neck through those foetal days of teen-age and twenties.

Leaves fall with the imperceptible shattering of limbs. Did they know when they were green, or when they fought the sun for golden brilliance? What exhale of a sleepy god tells the leaves that their time has come?

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Untitled (draft)

Once, in a land of cold, clear, sunny days where the snowy ground glittered in patches and fields like powdered diamonds, a little family lived huddled together, cluttered but cozy, on the very highest floors of an odd old brick building.

The building was odd in that it stood skinny and fragile and tall, tall above its neighbors, like a funny flower whose petals were not as numerous or as beautiful as the lush bed around it, but whose pale stem curled heads and shoulders above the rest, reaching up to kiss the clouds, to drink the sun, and to whisper to the moon in the sky.

Bent chimneys and steam pipes jutted out of the from the brick from the bottom of the old building all the way to its topmost tower.  They appeared at strange and irregular twists and angles, warding away the neat apartment blocks on either side, who muttered in their dull societies when they thought the odd, old building could not hear.  The pipes and chimneys were the building’s own protective thorns, where like a rose bush it gathered birds and mice and other small creatures to perch them, nest them, and hide them from the cold.  Around the highest apartment where the family lived, the building wreathed itself in copper, steel and iron like a rusty, tattered crown.

In some places there were windows, but there seemed to be no rule as to how many there should be, or how often they should appear.  In some places there were no windows at all for many floors, as if entire stories had been forgotten about or walled up in a world of secrets.

The first floor had hosted many curious shops and businesses over many, many years.  In the beginning there was a rarely-visited emporium that specialized in odd-sized wooden shoes.  In decades since, the old emporium had been partitioned, cut up, redecorated, knocked apart, plastered together and painted over.  It had seen more light bulbs, carpeting, cash registers, door frames, door knobs, saw dust and big iron nails than you or I could count.

The building disliked the big nails the most.  It was not the driving-in that was bothersome so much as the prying-out.  When the nails were pounded into the chipped pink stone, the building felt a small bit stronger, with good forged iron helping it to hold itself together. But each nail jerked crudely from the proud old brick left a bit of red and white crumble and an odd square hole, like the empty nest of a strange insect.  Then the building felt the age of its bones, and the brittleness of its materials, and wondered how many more years it could hold itself aloft.

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Death, The Life Story

Tracing a life through stories of death. Sometimes funny, sometimes not.


"Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living."- Jonathan Safran Foer. || student, loves travelling and perhaps baking a cake.||

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